Deep vein thrombosis: update on diagnosis and management

Paul C Kruger, John W Eikelboom, James D Douketis and Graeme J Hankey
Med J Aust 2019; 210 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50201
Published online: 17 June 2019


  • Diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) requires a multifaceted approach that includes clinical assessment, evaluation of pre‐test probability, and objective diagnostic testing.
  • Common symptoms and signs of DVT are pain, swelling, erythema and dilated veins in the affected limb.
  • The pre‐test probability of DVT can be assessed using a clinical decision rule that stratifies DVT into “unlikely” or “likely”. If DVT is “unlikely”, refer for D‐dimer test. If the D‐dimer level is normal, DVT can be excluded; if the D‐dimer level is increased, refer for compression ultrasound. If DVT is “likely”, refer for compression ultrasound.
  • When DVT is confirmed, anticoagulation is indicated to control symptoms, prevent progression and reduce the risk of post‐thrombotic syndrome and pulmonary embolism.
  • Anticoagulation may consist of a parenteral anticoagulant overlapped by warfarin or followed by a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) (dabigatran or edoxaban), or of a DOAC (apixaban or rivaroxaban) without initial parenteral therapy.
  • DOACs are the preferred treatment for DVT because they are at least as effective, safer and more convenient than warfarin. DOACs may require dose reduction or avoidance in patients with renal dysfunction, and should be avoided in pregnancy.
  • Recent evidence shows that DVT in patients with cancer may be treated with edoxaban (after discontinuation of 5 days of initial heparin or low molecular weight heparin [LMWH]) or rivaroxaban if patients prefer not to have daily injections of LMWH, but the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding is higher with DOACs than with LMWH in patients with gastrointestinal cancer.

  • 1 Fiona Stanley Hospital, Perth, WA
  • 2 PathWest Laboratory Medicine, Perth, WA
  • 3 Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton, Canada
  • 4 Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton, Canada
  • 5 St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
  • 6 University of Western Australia, Perth, WA


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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